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Charles R. Swindoll: Sacrifice Comfort

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to show piety towards their own homes and to prove their gratitude to their parents; for this is well pleasing in the sight of God. 1 Timothy 5:4

“Paul distinguishes “widows indeed” from “widows” who have living children or grandchildren. He charges the family of these widows to take care of them, based on two principles: righteousness and gratitude.

Paul called upon these families to “practice piety,” drawing upon the verb form of the noun “godliness,” a supremely important word throughout the letter (2:2; 3:16; 6:3, 5-6, 11). The purpose of pastoral ministry and the work of the church is to help its members lead godly lives (1:5), and this includes taking care of their own.

Paul also appealed to them on the basis of gratitude. Children and grandchildren owe their very existence to their parents’ willingness to sacrifice comfort in order to provide for them and protect them. Their mothers, especially, bore them in their bodies and then delivered them through incredible discomfort and pain at childbirth. If the desire to be righteous were not enough, gratitude alone should prompt children to care for their widowed mothers.”

Charles R. Swindoll in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (SLSNTC; Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2014) 106.

In plain terms, generosity must start at home before we export it elsewhere.

God’s righteous design for us as followers of Christ is to care for our aging parents, especially widows. This care is not only the right or godly thing to do, it must abound from a heart filled with gratitude that our parents sacrificed comfort for us as their children. We get to return the favor!

As our own son and daughter are launching as adults, we are turning our attention what assisting our parents looks like. All four, Jenni’s parents and mine, are still living, however, they are not getting any younger.

We’ve watched how our friends have cared for their parents to learn. My close friend, Tom Assmus, moved his mom to be closer to him in Colorado when she was an aging widow. That, in part, inspired me to urge my parents to live closer to my brother in Florida. I offered Colorado, but the weather down there is much more favorable for them. In our case, should something happen to Dad (or Mom), the remaining parent will be close to the oldest child, which means Heather, my sister, and I, will get to sacrifice comfort in other ways to offer assistance. We are also thinking about what this might look like for Jenni’s parents.

Recently, another friend, Chi-Chung Keung, took his mother out to the movies on a date! I saw a cute picture of them at the theatre on Facebook. What a beautiful example of tender loving care.

I am growing convinced that our family relations are the greatest testimony of our faith and the arena where our generosity must be most faithfully practiced. God help us sacrifice comfort to show tender loving care to our aging parents to prove our gratitude.

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Douglas Moo: Gratitude in the Heart

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

“Gratitude in the heart must come to expression in actual, verbal giving thanks to the Father “through” Christ. Some interpreters think that Christ is the basis for the giving of thanks. But Paul’s choice of construction should be honored: the giving of thanks is not “because of” Christ (dia with accusative) but “through” Christ (dia with genitive). In keeping with the way in which Colossians persistently presents Christ as the Mediator of all that God is to the world and to the believer, so Christ mediates our thanksgiving to the Father.”

Douglas Moo in The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) 291.

Express the gratitude of your heart by singing to God and give thanks to God because through Christ you have a relationship with God.

But what’s the link to generosity?

When we let the message of Christ dwell among us richly in community, generosity becomes the overflow of God’s rich work in us toward others. To release this richness in our lives, try reading Psalm 103 which recounts God’s many blessings to you, and sing a hymn or a contemporary worship song.

What does teaching and admonishing have to do with all this?

We must teach one another to cultivate gratitude in our hearts. Any richness we enjoy is a gift from Christ for our enjoyment and sharing.

The admonishing part is warning each other not to think what we have is from our own effort or doing. Entitlement thinking is the enemy of grace. If a person thinks they earned anything that they have, they not only misunderstand grace, but ingratitude abounds in their hearts which thwarts generosity.

“The message of Christ” is grace. All we are and all we have is because of the grace of Christ. Getting this is right helps grow in gratitude and rich generosity.

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Mark A. Seifrid: Unspeakably Wonderful

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

“Paul’s theology ends in doxology, a doxology that he himself speaks on behalf of the Corinthians, the Jerusalem Christians, and all who are involved in the collection. All of them fade into the background. Thanksgiving belongs to the one true Giver alone. Again, he uses the term charis, his thanksgiving is implicitly nothing other than the receipt of the charis, the grace and giving of God…

But what is the gift that Paul has in mind? We know it’s contours. It involves God’s self-giving in Christ, the wonder of His taking upon Himself our poverty, sin, and guilt; the wonder in which He has made us rich. It entails Christ’s grace, which not only meets our every need but also elevates us to share in the divine giving.

It includes God’s creation of true community in which the reality of giving is present. We cannot go further than a mere outline of the dimensions of this gift. To attempt to define the gift that Paul names, to pin down and describe it without reserve, would be to violate his intentional silence. He himself names it merely as a “gift,” leaving any further definition aside.

The story of God’s gift of Himself for our salvation cannot finally be told in full. It is unspeakably wonderful. Yet precisely because it is unspeakably wonderful, it must be spoken and retold again and again. If we could narrate it and tell it in full, we would cease speaking it. But it can never be exhausted, never fully explored, never fully explained or defined. It is to issue ever afresh in thanksgiving, praise and song — and giving, not only with the Corinthians, but also with us.”

Mark A. Seifrid in The Second Letter to the Corinthians (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014) 367.

To grow in gratitude and generosity, take time to reflect and thank God for the unspeakably wonderful gift of Christ today. Tell someone about your experience with gratitude. Ask God how you should extend His grace and generosity to others today.

What are you waiting for? God’s gracious giving came to you on the way to someone else. And don’t seek or expect thanks in return. “Thanksgiving belongs to the one true Giver alone.” You are not the giver, only the channel of generosity from the unspeakably wonderful Giver.

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F.F. Bruce: Persistent Prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

“Prayer and thanksgiving can never be dissociated from each other in the Christian life. The remembrance of former mercies not only produces spontaneous praise and worship; it is also a powerful incentive to renewed believing prayer. Our Lord’s words to His disciples, “Keep awake, and pray not to fail in the test” (Mark 14:38), had special relevance to the trial of faith which faced them in the immediate future, but they have a message for his people at all times. He taught his hearers that they “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Men and women of persistent prayer are those who are constantly on the alert, alive to the will of God and the need of the world, and ready to give an account of themselves and their stewardship.”

F.F. Bruce in The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984) 172.

We cultivate gratitude through persistent prayer. We must be awake and alert to all that is going on around us, or as Bruce aptly sums it up: “alive to the will of God and the need of the world, and ready to give an account” of ourselves and our stewardship to God.

Bruce used another expression that enlivens the biblical idea of being watchful, thankful, and prayerful people: “The remembrance of former mercies not only produces spontaneous praise and worship; it is also a powerful incentive to renewed believing prayer.”

Often in our home, in good times like on a birthday or anniversary or in hard times when we are praying for God to supply daily bread or help meet a need, we will go through the alphabet together and give thanks to God for His faithfulness to us. A, B, C, and so on.

We state something we are thankful for that starts with each letter, and we take turns so everyone participates. Try this today. Take time to give thanks for God’s grace (unmerited favor) and mercy (not giving you what you deserve). Cultivate watchfulness and gratitude.

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James R. Edwards: Act Proleptically

Now on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When He saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him — and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19

“The lepers do not plead for healing — perhaps they have long abandoned such hope. Their plea, though, is a virtual prayer, “Have pity on us.” The Greek expression is a petition befitting God, and for the grace and mercy only God can give. Jesus does not touch them (as he does, for example in Mark 1:41), promise them healing, or directly acknowledge their request. Rather, he orders them to present themselves to the priests…

The command itself is curious, for self-presentation to priests was the legal prescription for those who had already been healed (Leviticus 14:2-4). Jesus commands the men to act proleptically, in other words, to act on a reality that is not yet actual. In doing so, He repeats an idea taught in the Lord’s Prayer, the petition to live in the presence of the promises. As the lepers acted on Jesus’ commandment, “they were cleansed.”…

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.”… Here the concrete act of returning is also symbolic of converting to faith. The man returned to praise Jesus not when he had been declared clean by a priest, but when he “saw that he was healed.”… The description of his returning to praise God is remarkably close in wording to the shepherds praising God after returning to visit the infant Jesus (Luke 2:20). “To praise (or glorify) God” is a quintessential Lukan expression…”

James R. Edwards in The Gospel According to Luke (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015) 483-484.

I have decided to shift from gain to gratitude and explore its relationship to generosity. In Luke’s Gospel, gratitude is about praising God. Giving thanks and credit to God for all that is good (such as the sunset last night, pictured above). As Edwards notes, we live into this reality when we “act proleptically” which is “to act on a reality that is not yet actual.”

In plain terms, this means we get to wake up everyday with thankfulness to God. We don’t wait for something to happen. We live in the reality of His goodness that never ceases toward us and acknowledge it with praise. Or, as Edwards describes it, we “live in the presence of the promises.” What a privilege! We a generous God we serve.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of another day to enjoy and share. By the Holy Spirit, help us act proleptically, in the presence of Your promises. Like the tenth leper, may our gratitude show the world Your generosity. We were once foreigners, and now we are family, thanks to Your grace, mercy, and love. Hear our praise in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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John Stroman: Misusing our position

Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 10:2

“The coming of the kingdom into our lives challenges us to resolve the issue of how we use power. Each of us, to some degree, exerts personal influence and power. We are tempted to use it for our advantage. This can happen in our work relationships or at home in our personal relationships. What about those “power plays” we make with our colleagues, spouses, and children? We are tempted to take advantage of others because of our position of privilege. The Bible considers it a grievous sin to take advantage of another person by misusing our position of power and influence. Jesus had more problems with the religious leaders of his day who used their power for selfish purposes than with any other group of people. In practical terms, it is a grievous sin to take advantage of the elderly because of our youth, to take advantage of the weak because of our strength, to take advantage of the poor because of our wealth, or to take advantage of a lesser employee because of our seniority or status. Do you get the picture? How great is the temptation to misuse what God has given to us for personal advantage.”

John Stroman in Pray in This Way: Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer (Protestant Pulpit Exchange; Nashville: Abingdon, 1995) excerpt from Chapter Three.

This look at gain brings into view the “ill-gotten gains” that do not profit and lead to destruction. These awful gains surface when we misuse our position and influence instead of following God’s right and righteous design when we serve in positions of authority. This abuse was common among the religious leaders in the time of Christ and persists in that group today.

Sadly, the newspapers and internet report numerous examples of ministry leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, who have misused their positions and committed sins linked to money and sex from their position of power. How can we avoid this? What can we do to prevent it? And how to we exhibit generosity toward perpetrators and victims?

Stroman offers us advice for avoiding these grievous sins. If, in God’s providence, we ascend to a position of power, we must not selfishly misuse it, but see it as an opportunity to serve others more generously. Hoarding gain in the form of power or money is a recipe for disaster. The righteous avoiding selfishness by serving everyone with humility and generosity.

When we read stories of the sins of religious leaders, the injustice angers us. Ill-gotten gains have pillaged victims. What should we do? We must remove perpatrators from power and minister to victims. We must forgive sinners as we have been forgiven. We can take solace in texts like Ezekiel 34:1-11. God will weed out selfish shepherds! Share that truth generously.

Father, the world tells us to seek power to “get ahead” of those around us. Society says to hoard the gain we make because “we earned it.” These are lies. By your Holy Spirit, help us live differently, give generously, and serve humbly. Forgive us for our selfishness. Help us model selfless service like your Son, Jesus. In Your mercy hear our prayer in His name. Amen. 

 

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Tim Chester: Selfish Ends

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless — not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Titus 1:7

“Paul’s primary concern is not finding people with the best skills. His primary concern is character… Skills used for selfish ends become destructive. We see this often enough in history. The tyrants of the world do not get where they are simply through luck. They are people — great orators, charismatic personalities, and strategic thinkers. These skills combine to make them effective leaders, who achieve their aims. The problem is not their capabilities, but their characters. Their aims are selfish and bring misery to those they lead. Such extremes may be less common in the church — but it is not unusual for a gifted person to rise quickly only then to crash — and their church crashes with them.”

Tim Chester in Titus for You (Surrey: The Good Book Company, 2014) 33-34.

Often people think of dishonest gain as gain made through nefarious activities. While that’s undoubtedly part of it, as we have explored the idea of ‘gain’ in the biblical record, there’s another layer that surfaces. What we do with gain makes it either good or bad. When retained for “selfish ends” or one’s own purposes, it actually ruins the person, the gain, and adversely impacts the community of faith. When, alternatively, gain is used for God’s purposes, which are enjoyment and sharing, it enhances the character of the person, reflects God’s design for the use of gain, and blesses the community. While today’s Scripture relates to overseers in God’s house, it reflects the exemplary behavior we should all seek to exhibit.

Father in heaven help us use the skills You have given us for Your glory. Shape our character as selfless servants who earn gain in honest ways and use it with integrity. By your Holy Spirit, as we earn gain honestly, keep us from acting like dishonest robbers who keep for ourselves what belongs to You and what You have entrusted to us for the good of those around us. Mammon’s power is strong and sweeps many people away. Lest we lose our souls, help us maintain the right perspective on gain. In your mercy, hear my prayer for all of us, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Robert Horton Gundry: True Learner

So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” Luke 17:3

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15

“Luke’s ‘if he should repent’ gives way to ‘if he should listen to you’. Matthew often stresses hearing the word as a true learner. ‘Forgive him’ becomes the happy declaration ‘you have gained your brother’.”

Robert Horton Gundry in Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church Under Persecution (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994) 367.

Here again the word ‘gain’ appears as a verb in the biblical narrative. This time it’s associated with a benefit of extending forgiveness. We gain a brother or sister.

The greatest act of generosity extended to all people is the gift of forgiveness of sins from Jesus Christ. Here, true learners discover that forgiveness is a gift we get to give others.

How does this relate to generosity? In the family of God, we need to forgive one another generously like Christ forgave us. When we do we ‘gain’ relationship rather than lose it. But is this optional?

Jesus tells us that if we don’t forgive others, our own forgiveness may be in jeopardy (Matthew 6:15), so we must watch ourselves and be quick to extend the generous gift of forgiveness that we have received.

True learners, don’t miss this: when we extend forgiveness we reveal the evidence that we ourselves have received forgiveness. Forgiven people forgive, and they gain as a result!

Speaking of brothers and sisters, today’s my sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday Heather! Thanks for the times you forgave me over the years when I was a difficult baby brother! I love you.

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J. Alec Motyer: Refuse to subordinate people or truth to profit

Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil — they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them. Isaiah 33:15-16

“Before people can hear the word of forgiveness, they must face the rigor of God’s law for only those who meet the law’s demands can enter the new Zion. The verbs throughout are singular: the demand is individual and, first, comprehensive: walk covers a person’s whole outward lifestyle, characteristic behavior; righteously is a plural of amplitude, righteousness in all its aspects and in all life. Secondly, there is straightforward truth in speech: right means ‘straight’. Thirdly comes finance, with particular reference to how money is gained: extortion, refusal to subordinate people to profit; bribes, refusal to subordinate truth to profit. Fourthly, there is the mind: the ears receive what other say, the eyes look where the observer directs. They are both channels of the thought-life. Plots of murder is literally ‘hearing of blood-guilt’, which is listening either to what will bring guilt before God on the hearer, or to that which tells of guilt incurred by others. For the one who is thus righteous immense privileges open up: fellowship with the Lord, i.e. dwell on the heights (of Zion); security: refuge is ‘top security’, to be set on an inaccessible height; and provision (bread and water).”

J. Alec Motyer in Isaiah (TOTC; Downers Grove: IVP, 1999) 237.

There’s a lot going on in today’s text. As it comes from the Old Testament, we must start by giving thanks that Christ fulfilled the requirements of the God’s law for us. In plain terms, we study it to learn about God’s heart and desires for His people, individually and collectively, but thankfully we do not follow it to win God’s favor as that was won for us by Christ.

Regarding gain, this text teaches us explicitly that God cares how we earn money. He despises it when we subordinate people to profit (extortion) or truth to profit (bribes). In modern times, business owners may think that if they obey government laws that they are not guilty of extortion or bribery, but notice that God has a higher standard.

Making money must never become more important than caring for the needs of workers or communicating truth. If you are an employer, do more than comply with laws, be generous to your employees and be honest in all your dealings. God sees all you do. I am talking ‘straight’ like the prophet Isaiah to remind us all that God will look us when we do rightly.

 

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Richard J. Clifford: Gain Wisdom

Wisdom is supreme; therefore acquire wisdom. And whatever else you obtain, gain understanding. Proverbs 4:7

“Knowledge is not simply information but what one needs to live wisely. Such knowledge is gained dialectically through conversation with others by reproof. One must give up one’s preconceived ideas and undergo discipline in order to gain wisdom.”

Richard J. Clifford in Proverbs: A Commentary (Louisville: WJKP, 1999) 129.

While “gain” is commonly used as a noun, it also appears as a verb in many occurrences in Proverbs. In this instance we see the value of wisdom and applied knowledge, also known as understanding. It’s the possession to go after!

At Family Camp at Black Rock Retreat this week people said they appreciated our Bible teaching, but most of all, they were grateful that we also shared formational practices and application ideas for families.

How does this relate to generosity? Proverbs tells us that if we go after anything, aim at wisdom. The world says to gain it to “get ahead” of everyone else. The Word suggest we would do this not to get ahead but help the weak.

When we gain wisdom, it transforms us, but the key is to not let the transformation stop with us. Generosity is sharing the wisdom we gain with others so they too know how to live. What wisdom have you gained that you could share generously?

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